Why future water industry leaders need hands-on work experience

Posted 9 March 2017

Work experience: Scientists collaborate on researchCoursework is important, but students interested in a career in the water industry shouldn’t underestimate the value of hands-on work experience, says an industry expert.

Students should dip their toe in water industry research projects to gain relevant work experience and establish connections before graduation, said Water Corporation Section Manager for Treatment Peter Spencer.

“This way, there’s a greater connection to solving a real-world challenge rather than just an academic one,” said Spencer, who also serves as a committee member for the Australian Water Association’s Western Australia branch and sits on the professional development sub-committee.

Students and water industry organisations will be presenting at an upcoming seminar at Murdoch University in WA about the value of close academia-industry relationships. 

The event is split into two sessions: the first focuses on the role of student projects in tertiary education, as well as presentations by three groups of students conducting industry research, including the winner of the 2016 AWA WA Student Water Prize; the second aims to promote research, academic and industry partnerships, and features presentations by high-profile university academics and water industry professionals. 

Spencer said this ‘try before you buy’ approach is beneficial for both students and the water industry. It gives the sector the opportunity to look at how it can tap into the skills and intellectual resources of students and academics to develop solutions to water industry challenges. 

At the same time, it improves the learning and skills development of students as they work on real-world problems for their academic projects. 

“We want students to look at the water industry and see how what they are studying applies to projects that utilities or other industry groups are undertaking. You don’t have to get funding from a research council or have big-budget backing,” he said. 

It’s also a good opportunity for consultants and operators who have more research opportunities than time, Spencer said.   

“If there’s a piece of research or something that’s been sitting on the back burner for a while that you want to address, then this is a good chance to see if you can form a mutually beneficial partnership with a student looking for industry experience,” he said. 

The Academia and Industry seminar will take place 23 March at Murdoch University in WA. To learn more about undertaking or providing work experience opportunities, click here